19 January, 2021

Most rules of the road are abundantly clear, others can generate great debates, while some are a bit of a mystery. Here are seven road rules you may be familiar with and some which may surprise you.

1. No cycling under the influence

Tempted to jump on your bicycle to avoid driving after a few drinks? It may feel like you’re doing the right thing but cycling under the influence still puts you at risk as well as others on our roads and paths. Penalties also apply, even if you stick to cycle paths away from the road.

A regulation in the Road Traffic Code 2000 (WA) which covers proper control of bicycles, states that it’s an offence to ride a bike while under the influence of alcohol or drugs or both to an extent where the rider is incapable of proper control. The same applies if you’re riding or even ‘driving’ a horse or any animal. And in case you’re wondering, you would be ‘driving’ a horse if you had a horse and cart.

Man riding a bike at night

2. Don’t get territorial when drivers overtake

Some drivers just don’t react well to other vehicles overtaking and getting ahead of them, even when the overtaking driver does it safely and legally, but a little courtesy can go a long way. While it’s certainly impolite to drive in a way that prevents another vehicle from overtaking you, it’s also illegal.

Except for where overtaking on the left is permitted, you must move to the left (e.g. of the lane you’re in) to give way to a vehicle trying to overtake, and you can’t increase your speed until it has completely passed.

3. Don't leave your car unlocked

Even if you’re feeling extra confident about walking away and leaving your parked car unlocked, the law says you must lock it up. Unless you’re getting out to pay for parking or have a person 16 years or older remain in or with your car, if you’re leaving it, you must turn off the ignition, remove the key, lock the doors and secure the windows.

Legally you’re considered to be ‘leaving’ your car if you’re more than 3m away from it. And your windows are still deemed secure even if they’re open by up to 2cm. It’s also illegal for any driver to stop and leave their car without stopping the engine, applying the brake, and if the brake won’t be effective, restraining the vehicle in some other way.

Woman locking her car door

4. No skateboarding after dark

Under regulation 206 of the Road Traffic Code 2000 (WA) ‘A person shall not travel in or on a wheeled recreational device, motorised scooter or a wheeled toy, on a carriageway during the hours of darkness’. Wheeled recreational devices include, but are not limited to, skateboards, unicycles and roller blades.

However, you are permitted to cross a road if you’re using the shortest, safest route and are not staying on it for longer than necessary. At any time of the day or night, you’re also not permitted to use these devices on a road with a dividing line or median strip, a one-way road with more than one marked lane, or a road with a speed limit exceeding 50km/h.

Skateboard rider on a city road

5. Don't use your car horn to say 'goodbye'

Using your car’s horn to say goodbye to friends or express your anger at another driver’s actions can distract other road users and may attract a fine. According to the Road Traffic Code 2000 (WA), a vehicle’s horn or other warning device must only be used to alert other road users or animals of your approach or the position of your car.

Horns and warning devices can also be used as part of an anti-theft device or an alcohol interlock device (electronic breath testing unit connected to the ignition). The penalty for incorrect use of a car horn is a $50 fine.

6. When public letter boxes are a no-go zone

If that parking spot near the big, red Australia Post letterbox looks tempting, you better have some mail. Vehicles must not stop within 3m of a public letterbox. The exceptions are if you do have mail to post (or pick up if at a post office), if you’re dropping off or picking up passengers, or you’re stopping on a length of carriageway or in an area where you’re permitted to do so, which is indicated by a parking sign.

Australia Post letter box in a suburban street

7. Know what all overhead signals mean

The regular traffic control signals that tell you when you must ‘stop’ and ‘go’ aren’t the only ones you need to comply with. When you’re driving on any road where there are overhead signals for each lane, such as on the new Smart Freeway and the Northbridge Tunnel, make sure you adhere to the speeds or other signals indicated on the signs.

If you don’t, you could be up for demerit points and cop a fine. If you see a lane with a red cross above it, do not enter the lane. If you’re already in a lane with a red cross above it, you should indicate and move out of the lane as soon as it’s safe to do so. A white arrow will point to the lane (or lanes) that you need to move into – these give you advanced warning to help you merge or change lanes before the lane is closed or if there’s an incident ahead.

RELATED: Roundabout road rules »

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